When my office phone line rang the other day it was a slow news day, and I was hoping someone might be calling with a story idea.
Instead, the elderly-sounding voice on the other end of the phone asked about one of our policies. I answered her question, but she didn’t seem to particularly like my response, and she told me as much. She said it didn’t used to be that way, and should not be that way now.
“Well, sometimes things change,” I told her as kindly as I could, “and it’s not always for the better.”
She agreed with that, told me that she was from a time when things were better, and the conversation ended pleasantly.
The bigger truth is that the lady was right about one thing – she came from a time that was better than now, because I know I did.
Just a couple days ago, while I was visiting my mother on her birthday, that exact subject came up. We talked about how probably from the time I was in the fifth grade and on, I could tell her I was going for a bike ride, then could take off and go pretty much anywhere in town I wanted, as long was I was back for lunch or supper.
Could a conscientious parent allow that now?
It was the same if my buddies and I wandered off into the woods or we went who knows where to play ball.
We had the run of the town. No one bothered us. We bothered no one else – well, at least mostly – and it was good.
When I was around 5 or 6, I sometimes rode a taxi home from school. On Fridays, sometimes the taxi driver would let one of the older kids – but way under driving age – drive the taxi up our street, while sitting on the taxi driver’s lap, if I remember my kindergarten years correctly. As far as I know, no one ever complained.
Do you think a taxi driver could get away with that now?
When my sister was 12 she rode a moped all over Hillsboro, and who knows where else. She had no problems.
Do you think she could do that today?
As a youngster, in the warmer months after dark, my friends and I played a game where we chased each other all over the neighborhood. We ran through people’s backyards, climbed their trees, and hid on top of their outbuildings and in little nooks and crannies on their property. Our parents always put an end to the game before it got too late, but again, no one complained.
But they would now. They would have to, for their own safety.
When I was in grade school I had a paper route with one of my brothers. Some of our customers often left our money hidden outside where we always knew we could find it. It would have been easy for someone to take the money, but no one ever did. Except for the occasional dog, we never had any issues.
Do you think people would leave the money alone today?
When I became old enough to drive, we could cruise down a back road, maybe even pull over for a bit, and nobody seemed to mind. Once when I was with a female friend, we pulled over on the side of a bridge on a back road. Before long, a deputy pulled up behind us. He walked up to my car, checked the situation out, gave us a little lecture, and asked if we couldn’t find a little more private place to park. Then he politely sent us on our way. No ticket was ever discussed. He was smart enough to understand that a little embarrassment and a few well spoken words were all the lesson we needed.
Common sense ruled in those days. People were more tolerant. They were more conservative, too.
It’s not that way anymore. And that’s too bad.
As we talked on her birthday, my mother told me what a wonderful place Lynchburg was to grow up in during the 1950s. She has often told me stories of the ornery little things she and her friends did back in those days, and how much fun they had. It was a different time – a time of innocence that is lost to history, just like those times in ’60s and ’70s when I was growing up.
I could tell you why things have changed. I could tell you about all the things that are wrong in the world. But if you are anywhere near my age or older, you already know.
Once upon a time, when I was a youngster and I would hear people talk about how the old days were better, I didn’t believe them.
I do now. And like the caller said, it shouldn’t be that way.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or firstname.lastname@example.org.